RUTH Naomi BLOCKSMA 1919-2020




On November 1, 1919, Ruth Naomi Enss caused a sensation at a Newton, Kansas, hospital with her eleven pound birthweight and lusty lungs that foretold a long and musical life. Ninth of ten children, Ruth grew up in a large family that prized education, music, and art. Her parents, Gustav and Amy Enss, were college professors and immigrants from Russia. By the time she graduated high school in Detroit, Ruth was proficient in piano and violin and won a state prize in ceramics. After three years studying choral conducting at the University of Michigan School of Music, Ruth married Ralph Blocksma, a U of M medical student from Grand Rapids, Michigan. They moved to Chicago for Ralph’s plastic surgery residency and Ruth worked at Stouffer’s Restaurant in The Loop. Daughter Mary was soon born, and Ruth followed Ralph to Amarillo, Texas, where son Dewey was born and Ralph trained as an U.S. Army Captain. While Ralph served for several years in Europe during WWII, Ruth lived in Grand Rapids. In 1949, Ralph moved the family, now with third child Julia, to Lahore, Pakistan, to help build the United Christian Hospital supporting the new country’s recovery from the 1947 brutal Partition from India. For almost five years, Ruth home-schooled her two oldest as well as several other missionary children, and youngest child Carter was born. In 1954 the family returned to Grand Rapids where Ralph set up private practice, the family attended LaGrave Christian Reformed Church, and all four children finished elementary and high school before leaving for college. For years, Ruth travelled the world with her husband who, in a precursor to Doctors Without Borders, offered free training and plastic surgery to hospitals in developing countries. After they retired to the British Virgin Islands, Ruth supported the Tortola community chorus, taught music at a local elementary school, played the organ for church services, and helped direct Tortola’s Annual Choral Festival. When the couple moved to a retirement community in Jacksonville, Florida, Ruth became involved with another community chorus. Ralph passed away in 2001, and in 2004,  Ruth moved to the Wake Robin community in Shelburne, Vermont, with older sister Frieda Enss, who lived there until her death in 2009. At Wake Robin, Ruth helped direct the chorus, played in the bell choir, and supported the increase and quality of concerts sponsored by her community. She studied voice and violin, and, well into her nineties, piano. At 94, teaming up with daughter Mary and using an iMac, Ruth wrote a memoir, published in 2014 as Thirty-one Years & Twenty-one Homes. She followed this with a biography of her father, Dr. Gustav Enss, and worked on stories of her world travels. Ruth Blocksma spread her passion for art and music wherever she went. She was loved for her grace, courage, and kindness by those who knew her. She leaves behind dear friends and a grateful family: sister Vera Kemp (98); children Mary, Dewey, Julia, and Carter; grandchildren Dylan Kuhn, Anneke and Dewey Dunnington, and Colin and Lorna Blocksma; and brand new great-grandchild Clementine Dunnington. Ruth Blocksma passed away on October 22, 2020, from a brief illness. In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to her beloved Interlochen Center for the Arts.